Help Desk

As the parent of a three year old, I've recently been devoting a lot of thought to the concept of sharing. And many Mac users can benefit from paying more attention to sharing -- whether it's Address Book birthdays with iCal, contact information with Word documents, or digital music between devices such as an old iPod and a new Mac.

Birthday Wishes

Can I configure Apple's Address Book and iCal to give me advance notification of birthdays for friends, family members, and business associates?

Lenn Hann

There's no "Since Lenn went to the trouble of adding a Birthday field to this contact's card, I'll bet he'd like that birthday to also automatically appear in iCal" relationship between Address Book and iCal. But there are a few free utilities that do the job.

The first is Ulli Kortenkamp's ABtoiCal (http://homepage.mac.com/kortenkamp). This AppleScript creates a new Birthdays calendar in iCal; it includes all the birthdays you've entered in Address Book. Scotland Software's iCal Birthday Shifter application (http://iratescotsman.com/products/icalshifter/index.html) also copies birthdays into a calendar of your choosing. And Martin Pittenauer's ABBirthday (www.codingmonkeys.de/goodies/ABBirthday.dmg) is an Address Book plug-in that lets you create individual birthday events in iCal. Just click on a contact's Birthday heading and select Add To iCal from the resulting menu, and a sheet appears asking you to select the calendar you'd like to add the birthday to. Better yet, it can create an alarm for the birthdays you add to iCal.

Office Merger

In Microsoft Office v. X Standard Edition ($399; 800/426-9400, www.microsoft.com), is there an easy way to insert a name and an address into a Word document?

David Christian

There is -- more than one, as a matter of fact. The first employs Word's AutoComplete feature. Begin typing the name of an Entourage contact (you must keep your contacts in Entourage's Address Book for this to work). After you type a few letters, the entire name appears in a small yellow box. Press the return key, and that name appears in the document with a dotted red line beneath it. Control-click on the name, and you can insert that person's e-mail address, street address, or phone number.

For greater control, select View: Toolbars: Contact. You can use the resulting Contact toolbar to select a contact's name from a pop-up menu, add a new contact, and substitute one contact for another. With a contact's name in your document, you can then use other pop-up menus to insert that person's street address, phone number, or e-mail address.

MiniDisc to Mac

I've made some recordings on my MiniDisc player. Now I want to record the music digitally on my Mac and convert it to AAC format. How do I do it?

Ralf Ginter

To keep your recording digital, you need digital-audio ports on your music player and your Mac. Some MiniDisc players include digital-audio ports, but in the Mac lineup, only the Power Mac G5 includes digital-audio–ins and –outs. These are optical ports rather than S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) ports.

If your MiniDisc doesn't have a digital-audio output and you're extremely handy, you may be able to add one. MiniDisc.org offers tutorials at www.minidisc.org/part_hacking.html#Construction_Projects. Thankfully, you needn't hack your Mac to add digital inputs. Just purchase a USB digital-audio interface such as Edirol's $80 UA-1D (www.edirol.com/products/info/ua1d.html), an adapter with both S/PDIF and optical digital-audio ports.

Once you've made a digital connection between the devices, you'll need an application that records audio as AIFF files. iMovie can do the job for free via its Audio tab, but that's a clumsy way to go. Instead, consider my current favorite inexpensive two-track audio editor, HairerSoft's $30 Amadeus II (www.hairersoft.com/Amadeus.html).

Then you can drag the AIFF files into iTunes and convert them. To do so, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Importing tab, select AAC Encoder from the Import Using pop-up menu, click on OK to dismiss the Preferences window, select the files, and choose Convert Selections To AAC from the Advanced menu.

Old iPod, New OS

I have an older iPod that I've used with a Mac running OS 9. My wife bought one of the new iPods that works only with OS X, so I had to upgrade my OS. After installing Panther, I plugged in my old iPod, and my music library was nowhere to be found. Are older iPods incompatible with OS X?

George A. Renville

Absolutely not. The problem is that iTunes doesn't know where to find your music. In OS 9, iTunes keeps its songs at the root level of your hard drive, in Documents: iTunes: iTunes Music.

To bring those songs into iTunes in OS X, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Advanced tab, disable the Copy Files To iTunes Music Folder When Adding To Library option, and click on OK. Now choose Add To Library from the File menu, navigate to your old iTunes Music Folder, and click on Choose in the Add To Library dialog box.

Faster, Pastor

I am a pastor, and my question concerns listening to sermons. I use a variable-speed cassette player to cut my listening time in half. Now that more sermons are available on CD or as MP3 files than on cassettes, I can't always use my cassette deck. Is there software that similarly speeds up the listening process for digital sound files?

Sammy Williams

Roni Music's $40 Amazing Slow Downer (www.ronimusic.com) was developed primarily to let musicians slow down a piece of recorded music without changing its pitch. But it's also an amazing "speed upper." It can play an audio file at up to twice its normal speed without altering pitch, thus shortening the dramatic pauses that many members of your profession use so effectively.

Unlike digital-audio–editing applications that offer similar time-stretching features, Amazing Slow Downer can perform its trick on audio files saved to your Mac's hard drive and on audio CDs. It can play all the audio formats supported by iTunes.

Finding Locate

I need to look for things in every folder within the System folder, including the Core Services directory. But the Finder's Find command doesn't search all my Mac's folders. How can I search all the folders on my Mac?

Nicholas White

Abandon the Finder's Find command, and use a tool that exploits Unix's Locate command -- which sniffs through the hidden database that contains a listing of all your Mac's files and directories. If you're allergic to the command line, have no fear: I'm not sending you to Terminal. Instead, travel to www.sebastian-krauss.de/software and download Sebastian Krauss's free Locator, a utility that slaps a friendly interface on the Locate command.

Tip of the Month

In the April 2004 issue, you suggested using OpenShiiva to convert VOB files to a format readable by iMovie. If you own a copy of Roxio's Toast Titanium ($80; 866/280-7694, www.roxio.com), you can convert files easily. Open Toast and click on the Video tab. Drag and drop your VOB files into the Toast window, as though you were creating a disc. Within Toast, select the video file to convert, and then select Export Video from the Disc menu. You'll be prompted to save the converted file as a .dv file, which can be read by iMovie. There are some limitations depending on the audio format (for instance, Dolby Digital AC-3 requires Toast with Jam), but they shouldn't apply to your DVD source discs. When you're done converting, you can quit Toast without saving the project.

Martin Dellwo

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

The ability to create QuickTime slide shows with iPhoto's Export command is a boon, but iPhoto still won't cut a slide show to fit the length of an accompanying soundtrack. Sure, you could get close by doing the math and dividing the length of the soundtrack by the number of slides you intend to display. But unless you're lucky, you'll only get close. iPhoto doesn't let you display slides for fractions of seconds (8 seconds is acceptable, for example, but 8.13 isn't).

If you have a copy of Roxio's Toast Titanium 6, you can solve this problem by opening a copy of the bundled Motion Pictures application. Motion Pictures can perform the "pan and scan" Ken Burns effect and, unlike iPhoto, create a QuickTime slide show that matches the length of a soundtrack. It will also send that slide show directly to Toast, where you can burn it to a DVD or a Video CD.

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